If Looks Could Chill, by Nina Bruhns

>> Tuesday, November 02, 2010

TITLE: If Looks Could Chill
AUTHOR: Nina Bruhns

COPYRIGHT: 2009
PAGES: 384
PUBLISHER: Berkley

SETTING: Contemporary Louisiana, US
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: Second in the Passion for Danger trilogy

REASON FOR READING: I really enjoyed the first book, Shoot To Thrill

A kick-ass Yankee cop and her special-ops Cajun guide

Mysterious deaths stalk the bayou. No-nonsense Louisiana State trooper Tara Reeves reluctantly enlists the aid of Marc Lafayette, a too-sexy-for-his-own-good Cajun heartbreaker, to guide her on her search for evidence so she can bring down those responsible. But the source of the deaths is more dangerous than Tara could ever imagine. A foreign terrorist cell, plotting an attack on U.S. soil, is testing a deadly biological weapon in the remote wilderness of the swamp.

But the terrorists aren't the only ones with secrets... What Tara doesn't know is that her sexy guide is part of a covert special ops team sent to destroy the terrorist threat, and Marc is not happy about having to babysit a nosy cop--even one as temptingly beautiful as Tara. But as they search the Louisiana swamp for a deadly virus, they succumb to a fever of a very different sort. Both of them know that love and work don't mix, a harrowing showdown with the enemy will make their steamy passion boil over...and change their lives forever.
WARNING: Spoilers for book 1 ahead!

At the end of Shoot To Thrill, we saw Rainie's doctor friend Gina being kidnapped by unknown villains. We also saw that while Kick succeeded in killing his terrorist target, one of the bad guy's confederates escaped with the dangerous virus they had been guarding.

In If Looks Could Chill, these two elements are combined into a dangerous plot. The terrorists have moved to the US, and they're holding Gina hostage in the depths of the Lousiana bayou, where they are forcing her to use her expertise in developing inhalable vaccines to weaponise the virus.

Fortunately, Marc Lafayette and his team from STORM are aware of what's going on, and are in Louisiana trying to pinpoint where the baddies are hiding. But while the rest of the team is combing the bayou, Marc is assigned to distract Tara Reeves, a state trooper who is poking her nose into the case.

With the first book, I was happy to ignore any unlikely elements and just go with the story. I loved the main romance, I enjoyed the secondary storylines just as much and I had a blast with the exciting, fast-moving plot. We kind of get all that with this book, although the shine has started to dull a little bit, and I wasn't quite as ready to go with the flow. Maybe I shouldn't have read these back to back? I never learn.

The main romance was ok. I liked Marc and Tara well enough, but I found it hard to get too excited about them. I think the problem might have been that I just didn't get any sense of internal conflict from them. They're busy with a high-pressure investigation, but they like and are attracted to each other. And that's it. There's some stuff about Marc not being able to get involved with anyone seriously, yadda, yadda, but I just didn't buy it as an issue at all.

Oh, and by the way, the Cajun swearing really got on my nerves, way overdone. A lot of it felt off to me, but I'm willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt on the accuracy, as I've no idea how different Cajun is from traditional French... maybe they do use "cher" rather than "chère" for a female, who knows? But still, much too much of it going on for my taste.

The secondary storylines are still going strong here, but I found them to be a bit of a mixed bag. There's a new one introduced here, which was the one I kept wanting to go back to. It involves two of the operatives in Marc's team, Darcy and Bobby Lee, who've been casual sex partners for years, basically getting naked every time they are working together. Now Darcy's started to feel something more, and since she just knows there's no way Bobby Lee will want a proper relationship with her, she's decided to stop with the casual sex. Which, really, really throws Bobby Lee. These two were interesting, and I enjoyed watching Bobby Lee squirm.

As for the other one, it was a big disappointment. At the end of book 1 I was most excited about finding out more about Alex Zane, who had been rescued after being kept prisoner by terrorists for years, enduring constant torture. There was a subplot about him dreaming about a mysterious woman and those dreams basically keeping him alive during his captivity. Then he gets rescued, and it turns out that this woman isn't his fiancée, but the friend who introduced him to said fiancée. I was very curious about what would happen with this in ILCC, but I really disliked what I got. The main problem is that there's absolutely no reason why these two couldn't get together straight away, other than the fact that they behave like utter idiots. Plus, the woman (Rebel, whose name I found stupid, stupid, stupid) got on my nerves with her constant, missish "Language, Zane!" bleating. I wanted to slap her every time she opened her mouth.

There's something here that is beginning to bother me, which is that the men in these books tend to be very dominant, especially in bed. Kick was a bit of an exception in the first book, and since he was the main character, I was fine with it. But here it's coming more to the forefront. Gregg in the first book, Wade, Bobby Lee, even Marc, they all have scenes where they basically overpower the woman they're with... with the woman's full consent, yes, but it's still something I'm starting to get a bit creeped out by, since there's so much of it going on.

The plot was just as strong and exciting as in the first book, in spite of the change of scene and the fact that it all took place in the US, rather than in an exotic location. The only thing that bugged me was the concept of having a private company investigating what's basically a huge threat to national security, with no interference whatsoever from all the long alphabet soup of agencies that you would expect would be investigating this. Would this really happen? And even if it did, is this really a good idea? It doesn't seem so to me! But eh, well, I was able to let it roll.

What I wasn't really able to let roll was what I saw as extremely unprofessional behaviour from practically everyone. There's lots of passionate kissing in front of the whole team, and sex which might as well be in front of everyone (screaming monkey sex in a thin-walled tent in the middle of the campsite? Classy!) which I very much doubt any serious organisation would really be ok with, especially when the team is in the middle of desperately trying to stop a terrorist attack which could kill millions!

MY GRADE: A very qualified recommendation. B-.

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